Sunday, 25 December 2016

Evacuations as house collapses into a sinkhole in Fraser, Michigan, on Christmas Eve.

Three homes have been evacuated in the city of Fraser in Macomb County, Michigan, (part of the Metro Detroit Region) after one of them began to collapse into a sinkhole on Saturday 24 December (Christmas Eve) 2016. The residents of the home were woken by loud 'poping noises' at about 4.00 am local time, and by 6.00 am found that the house had shifted sufficiently for the doors to jam, forcing them to call emergency services to seek assistance. When the police arrived at the scene they found the house was sinking into the ground, prompting them to evacuate the property and two neighbouring homes. A further 875 properties had their electricity supply temporarily disconnected while power lines were re-routed around affected area.

House in Fraser, Michigan, subsiding into a sinkhole on 24 December 2016. Salwan Georges/Detroit Free Press.

Sinkholes are generally caused by water eroding soft limestone or unconsolidated deposits from beneath, causing a hole that works its way upwards and eventually opening spectacularly at the surface. Where there are unconsolidated deposits at the surface they can infill from the sides, apparently swallowing objects at the surface, including people, without trace.

The approximate location of Fraser, Michigan. Google Maps.

On this occasion the sinkhole is believed to have been caused by an old sewer main, that runs 17 m beneath the property, and is thought to have collapsed, releasing water that has washed away soft sediments beneath the house, until it was sufficiently undermined to collapse into the hole.

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